Do people care that the government is gouging them?

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
January 17, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: January 20, 2017 - 12:28pm

KAMLOOPS — In a recent column on the provincial government’s not so transparent tax system, there was a comment from a reader that drew my attention. He asked, “Who is listening? Do people really care?”

In general, I believe governments have operated on the principle that voters pretty much don’t listen, don’t remember and don’t care. What other explanation can be given for government’s blatant disregard of their taxpayers' interests while happily taking care of their own self-interests?

Case in point, as reported by Marvin Shaffer (The Tyee, Nov 16, 2016) where he delved into the relationship between Premier Clark’s LNG aspirations and the building of the Site C dam.

Ms. Clark’s government has agreed to sell 1200 gigawatt hours of power to the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant at the eDrive rate instead of the standard industrial rate.*** Unfortunately for us, the eDrive rate is 40 per cent less than what it will cost to produce the power and will force taxpayers to come up with the annual $34 million shortfall. It is a tax disguised as a subsidy, disguised as an increase in BC Hydro rates and is anything but transparent.

Does the government care? Obviously not and I suspect the deal was struck in hopes of salvaging some of Ms. Clark’s ill conceived LNG dreams. This attempt to save face through subsidies could become even more costly if all proposed LNG plants came online.

According to Mr. Shaffer, the cost to taxpayers would be in the hundreds of millions per year. And of course, a disguised LNG subsidy to industry brings up the ghosts of (softwood) NAFTA battles.

Then we have the New York Times (Jan 13/17) calling British Columbia the “Wild West”. In this case, they were referring to the BC Liberal Party and Ms. Clark’s penchant for “personal enrichment from the handouts of wealthy donors…” explaining, “As the premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark is on the public payroll, pulling down a salary of $195,000 in (Canadian) taxpayer money. But if that were not enough, she also gets an annual stipend of up to $50,000 from her party, financed by political contributions.”

The potential for a perceived or real conflict of interest is hard to avoid and the perception is only reinforced when you see Kinder Morgan (Trans Mountain pipeline) and the oil industry have donated $546,000 to the BC Liberal party.

The perception of conflict arises when you consider until recently, Ms. Clark was opposed to the pipeline. A sudden change of mind and that half million in donations means it no longer matters what new information brought about that change. The $546,000 gives immediate rise of a perceived self-interest and conflict.

The NYT adds to that thought, stating, “...the case in British Columbia stands out for the unabashedly cozy relationship between private interests and government officials in the province…”  

All political parties ask for and receive donations, but the New York Times singles out the BC Liberals and Ms. Clark for having refined the art to near perfection.  

They seem to be political fundraisers without a conscience and top it off by being dismissive of those they govern. Rich Coleman seemed to sum it up best when, at a November fundraiser in 2013 he proudly declared, “We won. It’s Christmas every day” (Huffpost, Jan 01/15/17).

That bothers me, as Mr. Coleman seems not to care that we the taxpayer are paying for his daily Christmas party.  

But back to my opening question. Do you care or is the government correct in assuming you are simply a tax-paying nobody who doesn’t listen, remember or care what happens to you? You are important on election day but that’s about it.

Personally, your political ideology isn’t my business. However, I do fear we’ve entered a new period where dogma trumps reason. I sense we’re reaching a point where we believe in a political doctrine simply because, well, that’s the party we’ve always supported, so they must be right and therefore I won’t question it.

Why think, question or challenge a political party when you can be spoon-fed a pre-assembled and tested 30-second sound bite?

You should question though, shouldn’t you?

***Woodfibre LNG contends the eDrive electricity rate is the same as the standard industrial rate, citing this news release.